I get it…
…but that doesn’t mean it makes sense- there is just so much to overcome.
Would a successful (on and off the field) MLS franchise in Atlanta be a boon to the league- undoubtably. To spread top level soccer south of North Carolina and east of Texas would improve the game at every level, from youth soccer to the USMNT. The problem, however, is bigger than that. Selling soccer to Atlanta is not the issue, selling professional sports to Atlanta is the issue.
*Yes, I’ve omitted championships won by the Atlanta Silverbacks (one each for the men and women), a women’s football team, and the old NASL Chiefs.
It’s not so much the lack of championships that sticks out- there are plenty of “good sports cities” whose teams have struggled- it’s the irrelevance. Despite being the dominant franchise in the National League for a decade and a half and winning a World Series, the Atlanta Braves couldn’t fill their stadiums during the playoffs. The NHL has put teams in Atlanta on two different occasions and in both cases the clubs bolted for for the Canadian Prairies within a decade. The Falcons? Atlanta has hosted more Super Bowls than they’ve appeared in- and they lost that one. The Hawks? I’m old enough to remember when they were pretty competitive, but if you’re wondering how long ago that was, Dominique Wilkins is now 54 and retired in 1999.
Maybe things will be different this time. MLS has succeeded in places with little or any top level sporting success- Portland, Seattle, Columbus, etc.- and thanks to cities like Portland and Seattle (and Kansas City) there seems to be a “blueprint” emerging: downtown stadium, appeal towards the younger, more diverse population within the city, etc.. Maybe Atlanta will follow along that path, and not the path of the Tampa Bay Mutiny and Miami Fusion. I remain skeptical.
In the words of principal Seymour Skinner, “Prove me wrong kids, prove me wrong.”